Did a whole week just go by? I suppose it did; in a blur of sleepless nights, calculating Weight Watchers points and endless news analysis of the presidential candidates.
And then there was last night, when after feeding and tending to the baby from 2 until 3 in the morning my husband returned to bed and said, “I don’t think we should go to Paris in May.” Even as disappointment welled up in me, I wasn’t surprised to hear him say it and so I said, “Okay.” I thought I knew where this was coming from; could we really leave our baby with his grandmother when he still wasn’t sleeping through the night? Would we travel thousands of miles only to sit around and cry about missing our baby?
Over coffee this morning, he admitted there was more. Last night a friend had come over for dinner and after a couple of bottles of wine had said “No offense, but you two seem in love with Eeyore.” Even though she had started five other sentences with “no offense,” in each case where there was nothing offensive being said, my husband interpreted her words to mean that while we seemed in love with our child, we didn’t seem in love with each other. In the dark of the night, he had decided that he didn’t want to go to Paris because what if her words were borne out? What if we could find nothing to talk about except Eeyore and whether he was surviving at home without us? Never mind that we find interesting things to talk about every day of our lives together; clearly she had seen something that was there, apparent to all but us.
This was upsetting to me. I don’t feel that way, and in fact I have been fantasizing for months about this trip as one extended romantic stroll along the Seine, complete with accordions playing in the background. I’ve pictured him taking me to see the buildings he’s studied, and my taking him to all my favorite restaurants. We’d end every evening with a last glass of wine at an outdoor café, snuggled up close to each other and talking about what we’d seen that day. Other than calling home to check on the baby, and acknowledging that we would of course miss him, my fantasies about our trip to Paris hadn’t included feeling estranged from my husband of a mere year and a half.
In the light of day, he claimed to realize that was extreme, but that he was concerned that we could go the way of many parents who become just that: parents, and no longer the couple who loved only each other enough to get all the rest of it, the family stuff, started. This is, of course, a valid concern for any two people who have had to shift their focus from solely each other to include a third, bottomless pit of a person. It’s hard to find time for each other when much of our time together requires constant attention to a squirming baby. Still, maybe I am naïve, but I had thought we’d been conscious of the pitfalls of parenthood and had been trying to stay ahead of them with things such as scheduling a babysitter most weekends so we could go out alone. We’ve even been back to see our couples therapist to make sure we keep working on our communication and, uh, stuff. Despite knowing we’d miss our child, we had planned a romantic week away, just the two of us. Doesn’t that active effort we put into our marriage put us ahead of most people?
What can new parents do to keep the central relationship, the one that makes everything else possible, thriving?